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Thursday, May 23, 2024

The Southeastern Conference East standings in both men’s and women’s tennis will be shaped by this weekend’s matches.

The Gators men’s tennis team is back home for the final stretch of the regular season to face two of its toughest opponents this spring.

No. 4 Tennessee (20-1, 8-0 SEC) will be the highest-ranked team to face No. 6 UF (15-2, 7-0 SEC) in Gainesville today at 3 p.m.

Tennessee’s only loss of the season came in the championship match of the ITA National Team Indoor Tournament to the host, current No. 1 Virginia.

One of Tennessee’s strengths this season has been doubles.  The only time the Volunteers have lost the doubles point this season was Sunday against Mississippi State.

If the Gators lose the doubles point Friday, they know how to come back.

Last Sunday against then-No. 10 Kentucky, UF needed sophomore Nassim Slilam to win the third set of the last match to snag the 4-3 win after losing the doubles point.

Slilam is not the only one who has been pushed to three sets to win singles matches on the road.

Senior Antoine Benneteau was pushed to three sets against then-No. 14 Ole Miss and then-No. 10 Kentucky, both 4-3 wins for UF.

“The key thing is I’ve improved on handling my emotions,” Benneteau said. “I don’t get pissed off when the other guy is playing well and comes back (to tie the match).  When I start the third set, I keep my composure and I’m ready to fight.”

UF will need to carry its fighting spirit into Sunday when it faces No. 8 Georgia (16-4, 8-0) at 1 p.m.

The Gators defeated the Bulldogs 4-0 earlier this season in an ITA National Team Indoor Championships consolation match.

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“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” UF coach Andy Jackson said. “Our guys will go out there Sunday knowing they can beat Georgia.”

The women’s tennis team begins its three-game road trip to close out the regular season today in Knoxville, Tenn.

The No. 4 Gators (18-2, 8-0 SEC) face No. 16 Tennessee (12-6, 6-2 SEC) today at 4 p.m.

From a rankings perspective, the match will be the Gators’ most difficult at a true road environment this season.

The Gators traveled to Starkville, Miss., to face then-No. 57 Mississippi State on March 26, but so far the only contests against top-20 opponents away from Gainesville were at February’s ITA Team Indoor Championships in neutral Madison, Wis.

No. 14 Georgia (11-5, 7-1 SEC) will be trying for a piece of first place in the SEC East when the Gators travel to Athens, Ga., for Sunday’s match at 1 p.m.

Much like the men’s team, the women’s squad needs to defeat all three upcoming SEC opponents to win the SEC East, and in both cases the conference, outright.

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